This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Indigestion may be the result of two causes - first, a diseased state of the stomach, and, secondly, by passing into a healthy stomach some cartilaginous substance which is not naturally adapted for it In the former case, we may call it a perpetual disease, in the latter, spasmodic. It is this spasmodic indigestion, Mr. Editor, that your humble servant is sometimes troubled with; and as we are just now suffering in the stomach, and can not possibly digest one or two bony horticultural substances, we, in our present painful condition, apply for the soothing balm of horticulture, whose disintegrating action on the stomach may dissipate the bone and give us relief. In your December number, page 366, we read as follows:
"We know from the very interesting experiment of M. de Comini, near Botzen (Tyrol), that the germs of the oidium lie, during the winter, dormant in the brown bark of the canes of the vine. He cut, in November, canes with dark spots, the effect of the oidium spores, and kept them in pots, filled with sods and horse manure, in a warm room. After seven weeks the oidium appeared on those black spots, and covered, in a short time, the whole cane so treated."
From the above extract, the inference seems to be that the oidium is produced by spores of the previous season, which live over the winter, and, by the influence of heat and moisture, burst forth into existence, and grow and flourish on hard brown wood just as well as on the green and tender. Dr. Walsh, in the "Practical Entomologist" of the December number, in answer to some queries of Dr. J. S. Houghton, in relation to the " bark-louse" on his fruit-trees, says they are produced from eggs of the previous season. This we know is true; but the question is, do not myriads of these insects come into existence without previous fathers and mothers ? Is there no oidium in existence without springing from the sporules of father and mother oidium ? Why not contend that all the colds and coughs that our humanity is heir to are produced from a sporeal or fungoid ejection from and belonging to the order of Mammalia ? Are there no plants in the world that come into existence without a prior father and mother? Has the great Father of all things ceased creating? Not at all, nor never will, so long as matter exists.
Watch, in the summer time, a piece of shallow water, and note the slow but sure development of the thin, transparent vegetable mucus, extending globule by globule till it covers the whole surface, and on a spot, perhaps, where never water was before, nor aquatics ever grew. Go to the stone wall you built a year ago, when the face of the stones was all clean from vegetable life, as a sheet of white paper, and see the beautiful foli-aceous expansions, growing onward and upward to higher orders. Are they the offspring of a prior father and mother, or the spores of some defunct cryptogamia of the order of Algae? Some years ago we dug a hole, several yards square, in a swamp that had been drained to the depth of four feet, sinking some four feet below this; the water burst up like a fountain from the bottom, and the operation was suspended. No water could possibly get to this excavation but the rain and that which burst in at the bottom;* a brook ran through the swamp, but not nearer to the point in question than three hundred and fifty yards. In six months' time this hole was nearly alive with small pickerel. This fish is considered a fresh-water inhabitant, but they are alive there to this hour, and constantly increasing in size.
How did they get there? From whence came the prior father and mother? On showing this place in question, with its fishes, to a medical gentleman, and an intimate friend of ours, and wishing him to solve the mystery as to how the fish got there, he replied: "Why, there is nothing more simple, for," said he, "yonder is a brook - that brook contains the spawn or eggs of the pickerel - this swamp in its very nature is open and porous - the water from the brook percolates through this spongy muck, and of course the spawn of the pickerel comes with it - nothing more easy or simple." "But," we replied, "if this be so, why do not the spawn of the trout, sun-fish, jack-sharps, and the suckers get through in the same manner?" "Are there no other fish but pickerel in this hole?" None whatever." "Then it is very strange," said the doctor; and so ended the subject: and we are sorry to say thus ends investigation by scientific minds when such a fact ought to lead them on to investigate cause and effect. Were there no insects brought into existence but what had fathers and mothers, we think we should not have half the trouble to get rid of them.
Why, are clean shirts worn for no other cause than merely to look nice ? or is it absolutely necessary to the prevention of the generation of some of those parasitic insects of the genus Pediculus? Where do the prior father and mother come from? Where are the prior father and mother of the wonderful Washingtonia gigantea? By what breeze and from where were the seeds wafted to California ? What does " indigenous to the soil" mean? Similar thoughts and questions apply to mildew or oidium. We disbelieve the doctrine that the oidium is produced from secreted sporules of prior father and mother in the dry bark of the vine, and we also disbelieve the possibility (under natural conditions) for sporules to develop, grow, extend, and cover a piece of ripe cone wood of the previous season. Were such actually the case, we question if we should have to-day a living vine in America, excepting those wild foxes of the woods. That M. de Comini performed the experiment as quoted, we believe, but as far as the oidium is concerned, we believe him to be mistaken.
The sods and horse manure put together will do what any horticulturist knows it will do, and that is, produce a fungoid growth, and had M. de Comini stated that the result of his experiment had terminated with a fine crop of mushrooms on the vine stick, we should be inclined to place more confidence in it than we do in the statement of the oidium growing over and extending along a piece of ripened wood of the vine. Our opinion is, that no man ever saw such a thing, nor ever will This and the lightning theory as the cause of rot in grapes, are on a par, for we know full well, numbers of us, that there are locations even in our changeable climate of America where no rot is found. Look, for instance, in California, where our fine exotic Hamburg, and Muscat of Alexandria, and Cannon Hall Muscat are sold in the markets of San Francisco, grown in the open air, weighing six and seven pounds! Still, we believe it thunders and lightens there ? But what do they know of rot - the rot of the Northern States ? Nothing at all.
Why not tell us, Mr. Editor, that all the grape-rot oidium, with a host of other indigestible horticultural matter, are the result of the action and influence of moonshine?
*In swamps, the pressure of the surrounding matter will cause the water to buret up in this manner.
From whence sprang the prior father and mother of that nondescript (half elephant and half something else) figured in the Gardener's Monthly, having been sent to the editor of the latter-named journal by Dr. J. S. Houghton, who, after many a day's hard chase, succeeded in catching the monster in his orchard, and after binding the animal's feet and legs thoroughly, and securing the jaws of his monster head, caged it and sent it to the office of the Monthly. We think the Doctor should have sent it to Barnum, and had it placed in the menagerie of wild beasts. However, if this monster ever had a father and mother, there still remains a chance for Mr. Barnum to procure a living brother or sister of this monster Leviathan, "who goeth down in the deep" of the Doctor's pear-trees, " eating great holes in their sides, and gnawing the skin in a most destructive manner!"
Bat though this monster may appear
So hideous with its paws, 'Twill catch, perchance, the oldium,
Like the whale - with open jaws; For every change that nature brings,
With deepest good is fraught, Though oft her motives lie beyond
The grasp of human thought
White Plains, January 10.
Mr. Ellis hits pretty hard upon some theorists, and I gather from this article that he yet believes in new creations, and that from atmospheric or other invisible causes these fungoid diseases are produced.